How Dare You Have Rules

Reality and PerceptionThere are a number of  Fat Activism, Size Acceptance, and Health at Every Size spaces that I moderate. This week people in several of those  spaces have expressed frustration that I don’t allow diet or weight loss talk.   They ask why they aren’t allowed to try to lose weight if they want to.  The short answer is that they are.  It’s none of my business. I respect the decisions that other people make about their bodies just like I want mine to be respected.  I fight against the industries (for example I fight against the diet industry and weight loss surgery and those who shill for them) and I fight against people who try to tell me what I have to do.

But I also understand that the question is deeper than that.

No matter how much we love our bodies, fat people face a lot of stigma for our size, and thinness confers tremendous benefit. I can understand the desire to try to solve social stigma through weight  loss, or to try to lose weight to solve the issues with getting clothing in our sizes, or buying into the idea that manipulation of body size is the path to health. People are allowed to do all of these things.

For my part I think it’s important for people to have access to information not paid for by the diet industry, including information regarding their odds of failure so that if their attempts fail it softens the self-esteem blow.  People are allowed to believe that manipulating their body size is the key to being healthy and feel that they need to lose weight for health reasons. I think they should have access to true and correct data about health and weight.  I don’t think that they are required to do any research or justify their choices in any way, I just think that they should have easy access to the information.

To me social change is more important than social approval.  I think that the cure for social stigma is to end stigma, not to insist that members of the stigmatized group change themselves.  In my experience when you try to change yourself to change the behavior of others or gain their approval, you soon find it’s never enough -there’s always something else that somebody wants you to change. If I was offered a pill that would make me into the perfect stereotypical beauty I wouldn’t take it. That doesn’t make me worse or better than those who make different choices. Our bodies – our choices.

People are allowed to want to, and try to, lose weight. However, where people get tripped up is in the belief that they should be allowed to talk about that in Fat Activist, Size Acceptance, and Health at Every Size spaces.  Nope nope nope. It is ok to have spaces that don’t allow diet or weight loss talk, it is ok to have 100% body positive spaces, it’s ok to have a policy of “absolutely no diet talk” or “absolutely no negative body talk.”  The spaces that we create – be they our homes, blogs, Facebook Pages, Twitter, Youtube, or Instagram accounts – are ours.  They exist because we created them and we have every right in the world to moderate them.

I notice that with most bullies, their bodies left junior high school but they left their brains behind, and so they’re still using every schoolyard bulling technique that exists.  From calling us “chicken” to creating some twisted logic, to trying to do it by force.  We get bombarded by negative messages about our body every single day, and we have every right to create spaces that support us and our choices, even if that means excluding people who want to be in those spaces but refuse to respect the rules of the space, regardless of their reasons or intentions.  Our bodies, our choices.  Our spaces, our rules.

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20 thoughts on “How Dare You Have Rules

  1. They have nearly the entire internet to rail against us, but think we are not allowed to tell them to get off our personal spaces with their hate.

    I can’t open up my Yahoo account without getting slapped in the face with ads demanding I prepare for bikini season and assuring me that I’ll be much, much healthier when my body is half its current size. I can’t turn on the TV without being informed that I look disgusting. If I get a job, my paycheck will probably be lower than those of my thin colleagues, and I will most likely lose benefits if I refuse to participate in body manipulation ‘wellness’ programs. If I go for a walk to exercise my body, there’s a better than average chance that someone will make a hostile gesture to me or yell at me to hide until I’m hot enough to give him a boner.

    And yet, for some this is not enough. They must follow us into our ridiculously few safe spaces and threaten us there.

    Well fuck that noise!

    My house, my damn rules.

  2. ” If I go for a walk to exercise my body, there’s a better than average chance that someone will make a hostile gesture to me or yell at me to hide until I’m hot enough to give him a boner.”

    This. This right here. In a nutshell.

    Perfectly phrased!

  3. I, for one, am utterly and SUPREMELY thankful that you provide these spaces of safety and shelter from the damaging winds of a blowhard society. The hot air that gets spewed with clockwork regularity buffets us to and fro, hither and yon in its attempts to force us to change who we are. Most days I’m pretty good at using my sails to navigate those strong winds, but for the days that I’m not, I appreciate having safe harbor more than you know. Thank you, Ragen, for being a woman of integrity and conviction.

  4. I am headed to my local bookstore to pick up the copy of Fat: The Owner’s Manual I ordered last week. I look forward to reading it! I really appreciate what you are doing here! Keep up the exceptional work!

  5. I was asked once, if someone could wave a wand and make you thin overnight, would you? I thought about it and decided that, no, I wouldn’t. I would be thinNER, but only for the logistical reasons, some of which you mention (like finding clothes that fit right without having to order online or fitting into a booth or one seat on a plane).

    For years, I debated WLS, and I realized that having major, invasive, potentially deadly surgery that has no shortage of potential complications simply for “logistical” reasons was pretty goddamn stupid. Now, that’s MY rationale, and it’s based in part on knowing my body HATES surgery Someone else might make a different choice.

    But what I realized when I stopped dieting is pretty close to what you said here, “…when you try to change yourself to change the behavior of others or gain their approval, you soon find it’s never enough.” Only in MY case, what I had realized was, it would never be enough for ME. If I was going to insist on hating my body, I’d always find something to hate about it, even if I were ever to see that “magic” number on the scale (and I know I never would’ve anyway). It dawned on me that I could keep hating myself, or I could accept myself, as I was perceived and real flaws and all.

    I find acceptance to be a far happier path. It’s not without its rough patches, and I have times when I struggle still. But it’s made me so much happier overall, and I just HAVE to believe that happier is healthier. It sure feels it.

    At any rate, I’m deeply grateful for a place I can go, on a day when I *am* struggling, and see only positive messages of acceptance, as opposed to conditional acceptance, where it’s contingent upon “doing good” with a diet or exercise regime.

  6. Ms. Chastain, you are the cool side of the pillow on the whole internet. I can pretty much literally go to any random place online and be told all about how and why to lose weight and what kind of miraculous diet engine will help me do it effortlessly. It’s such a relief to come to your spaces and let me shoulders drop away from my ears and know that you’ll never promote weight loss for reasons of societal acceptance at me. Thank you so much. You are my heroine.

  7. I appreciate the diet-free zones. Especially since it is so ubiquitous everywhere else. I can’t remember the last time I had drinks or food with a female co-worker where there wasn’t discussion of “being bad” or “this food doesn’t count” or “I don’t normally eat like this”. I empathize, but it’s annoying, especially because no amount of “eat what you want, I literally do not care and would never judge you” seems to dissuade them.

    1. And even if you DO manage to avoid that with co-workers or friends, we have the nutritional information shoved in our faces CONSTANTLY now. And they can claim this is done in the interest of “public health” but we fatties know the real goal is to shame us into eating “better” or “less caloric dense” foods. What they fail to realize is how this affects ALL people, not just fat ones… the anorexic patient in recovery doesn’t need to be bombarded with calorie information or fat grams when she’s trying to eat a cheeseburger for the first time in years, for example.

      It lends to that “oh my god, this is such a ‘bad’ food” sort of mentality, and I know I for one do not need more food policing. I did quite enough of that on my own without help.

      I definitely believe both nutritional information and ingredient lists should be available, but upon request… not shoved in our faces, whether or not we want it.

      1. Yeah, I know! The vending machines at work are all festooned with stickers reading “Calories Count!”

      2. I think the only information that should be on a label is the ingredient list so you can see if you’re allergic to something, like wheat starch in bologna, or modified milk ingredients. That way the person can make their own call.

        1. I refuse to feel guilt about the food I eat. If and when a food can have me arrested, placed in a police car, hauled down to the local hoosegow, have charges pressed against me, make me appear in court in handcuffs, ankle, and belly chains to answer those charges, successfully prosecute me as guilty as charged, ending with me thrown into the State Pen for life without chance of parole then maybe then I would allow a food to make me feel guilty.

          I tried to point this out when I still did WW. Someone then huffily pointed out that if the food in question was pot brownies, then why , well, a food could have me arrested and tossed in jail. I told them ASSuming that I’d even ever have any pot brownies, the brownies couldn’t drop the dime!

      3. And the information they bombard you with isn’t actually USEFUL in managing any real health concerns – just the made up “obesity epidemic” ones. If you are diabetic and want to know how many carbohydrates are in a food, or if you’re a heart patient on a low sodium diet and want to know how much sodium is in a food… you still have to ask if they have that information. And more and more now, they don’t because “it’s on the webpage” — they assume everyone has an internet enabled cell phone now. So they stopped keeping a physical print out on hand at every restaurant.

  8. I want diet-free zones because I want to live without the guilt of not dieting. Even in fat-friendly groups where diet-talk is allowed, those feelings creep in and I end up feeling all jittery and stabby, wondering if I need to diet…if I need to lose a few pounds…if…if…if

    Thank you!

  9. Love you and the way you write. You are so good at putting into words the things I would like to be able to say to people. Actually, most of it is good stuff to tell myself as well when I start getting sucked into the diet blah blah blah vortex!

  10. I’ve never understood those who are bothered by not being allowed to talk about dieting and trying to lose weight in fat acceptance spaces. I’ve been a participant in fat acceptance spaces online in the past when I was actively trying to lose weight and I still enjoyed the refuge provided of one space to talk about things related to being fat without it being about losing weight and not being fat in the future. There are plenty of places online you can talk about weight loss, and lots of places were being fat is only (sort of) acceptable as long as you are working to lose weight. Even when I was trying to lose weight it was such a relief to sometimes be somewhere online where it wasn’t about weight loss and being fat was ok with no qualifications needed.

  11. I’m not fat and diet-talk makes me feel insecure and depressed too. No-one can win this game, it makes us *all* losers. Let’s not play it.

    Thank you for your blog, I think it’s fabulous!

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